Bordeaux, region of sand and water, land of wine and pine

On the heels of its long history, heritage like no other and newfound dynamism, Bordeaux is the successful blend of Parisian-style bourgeois chic and southern coolness.

'The Pearl of Aquitaine', long known as 'The Sleeping Beauty' has woken up. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007, the city has unquestionably become a showcase for the art of French living. Wandering the cobbled streets will bring you to shopping central on rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest pedestrian street in Europe, stretching over a kilometre; stroll along the walled banks of the Garonne, through the many squares dotted with sidewalk cafés, bars, and restaurants, and stop to taste oysters, a landaise salad, a duck breast accompanied by a fine wine, and of course the traditional cannelé (caramelised custard pastry), the star of Bordeaux delicacies.

It is a 'land of contrasts' between vineyards and forest, freshwater and saltwater, blue-grey sky and the silty ochre waves of the river; no longer exactly a river, nor yet the ocean, the estuary surprises and has a mysterious side. Discover this paradoxical universe the port surrounded by land, the countryside in the middle of the sea.

Meandering through the great vineyard regions offers incomparable vistas, along with an astounding list of world-renowned wines from the Medoc to Saint-Émilion. Pomerol, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, Margaux and all the great growths are invitations to travel and visiting vineyards is undoubtedly the best way to better understand the subtleties of what you find in your glass. Bordeaux wines have offered fame and prosperity to the 'Port of the Moon' and are exported worldwide, ensuring an exceptional image of the art of French living. 'Be you drunken', wrote Baudelaire - but if one really knows how to live well, be so in moderation, of course.

Further west, the Atlantic surf rolls in with a promising roar, offering a few ocean nirvanas for surfers and seekers of good spots. In alliance with the ocean winds, the sea raises the mountains of sand at the foot of the cultivated Landes pine forest, and then gives birth to a desert, the Dune de Pilat, which breaks all records in terms of size and height. Once past the great fields of sand, you will arrive at Arcachon Bay, an amazing area of inland sea, beaches, oyster parks, and eco-tourism sites with a variety of entries protected by channels. Once there, let yourself be carried away by the rejuvenating benefits of seaside life.